Sunday, March 23, 2008

Compromising Defense

Military leaders often justify the cost of new ultra-sophisticated weapons with the notion that "American soldiers should never have to fight fair". Thus they silence all debate on the astonishing cost of these whiz bang and overly complicated arms, and the ever aging, ever shrinking numbers available to the troops.

We are left then with equipment too costly to risk in the lo-tech insurgency conflicts we always end up fighting, and too few for the large scale conventional wars the military plans for. When they are used in the unconventional environment of the Third World, the results are often embarrassing:

  • Giant supercarriers built to carry million dollar jets are called on as troops transports to invade the tiny island of Haiti.
  • The super destroyer USS Cole, designed to fight Russian or Chinese nuclear submarines on the high seas is attacked by a terrorist speed boat armed with dynamite and forced out of commission for a year.
  • Stealthy and marvelously engineered B-2 bombers, specially geared to penetrate the world's toughest air defenses are used to bomb Taliban targets in Afghanistan that often include mud huts.

Obviously a compromise must be found between the irregular and the conventional military. One way out might be our increasing use of robots weapons on the battlefield, like unmanned air, sea, and land vehicles. These hi-tech but still affordable equipment have evolved from the remote controlled toys of civilian amateurs to become life saving assets for the troops. In the Middle East conflict, they are often substituted and will increasingly be the norm for old style traditional arms, like the tank, manned fighters, and even warships at sea.